I was really looking forward to this book, but ultimately found that the tight timeline (necessary to avoid having an adult female princess!!!!!111!) stretched my credulity too far. Here’s my breaking point.
He put an arm around Alyss’ waist and moved with her in gentle circles. He had never touched the princess before — not like this. She smelled of sweet earth and powder. It was a clean, delicate smell. Did all girls smell like this or only princesses?
This is on page 31. ALYSS IS SEVEN, STOP SNIFFING HER. Also, you’re ten and a half. WTF, that whole passage is weird.
Look, I get that Dodge and Alyss are an OTP, and have cared for each other since they were kids. However, SHE’S SEVEN AND HE KEEPS THINKING OF HER AS HIS SWEET SMELLING ALYSS. That’s just weird… and would be nicely solved if…
1. The Alyss who returns to Wonderland 13 years later is a grown woman — IE she’s 13 now, he’s 14 now, and then when she comes back she’s 26. It’s still creepy there’s sniffing going on, but considering that teens that age are a GIANT BALL OF HORMONES, it’d make more SENSE. I know her leaving at 7 and coming back at 20 is meant to make her return to Wonderland a coming of age, but the thing is, she’s still coded as fairly childlike/innocent, in a way I find unbelievable for a child survivor of an orphanage system.
2. When she’s sucked into our world, there’s a brief in-text explanation for her being older, but passing for younger at the orphanage. It’d makes sense because she has no papers, looks “delicate,” and people from Wonderland aren’t quite the same as regular humans.
As it is? I couldn’t suspend disbelief enough to be okay that Alyss was 7, and that she and Dodge were “more than friends,” as she puts it when she’s in our world. The above left me with the suspicion that the author wanted to have twee!Alyss and teen!Alyss, but not grown woman Alyss, who I’m intuiting would’ve been a more interesting character because of being half-trained in the magic of Wonderland (instead of untrained and guessing, like some Chris Claremont version of Kitty Pryde or Elora Danan) and because grown!Alyss would probably have some understandable ANGER and COMPLICATED FEELINGS about her return to Wonderland. Instead, the ALYSS of this Wonderland revamp is… how can I say this? Boring. She’s an object of affections, loyalty, etc., but not the bearer of her own feelings. This is a shame, since the original Wonderland series featured such a quirky, vital female protagonist.
Conclusion: Think about timeline and age when mapping out a relationship and the events of your novel.